Posted by: atowhee | August 29, 2016


I just got my summer issue and felt compelled to send them this letter, not necessarily expecting them to print it:

“Dear Editor:

“In your Summer, 2016, issue pages 46-47 outline some places and highlight species for boreal birding in North America.

“Gray Jay was mentioned.  Here in the west this species is often found in mountain areas far south of the boreal forest.  Near Eureka, California, it can regularly be found at low elevation not far from the Pacific Ocean in decidedly non-boreal habitat including suburban gardens.

“The lead photo on the article shows a female Great Gray Owl sitting on her nest (males don’t incubate). Thus a reader might infer that the Great Gray is a boreal specialty. Certainly it is a species one would not expect to find in most states in the nation. Surely the largest American population of this species is found in the boreal forests. However, this flexible bird nests as far south as Fresno County, California. In Oregon the birds can be found in oak/madrone forests not far from the Rogue River. They also nest in lowland oak chaparral in the Sierra Foothills south of Sacramento.

“While on the state endangered species list in California (where fewer than 300 Great Gray Owls are estimated to live), Oregon has a sizeable if elusive population.  Jackson County in the southwest and Union County in the northeast are Great Gray Owl hotspots.  Each has an annual May bird festival where nesting Great Grays are a highlight:  Ladd Marsh Festival in La Grande and Mountain Bird Festival in Ashland.  This species is sedentary along the Pacific Slope, rarely wandering far from its breeding territory.

“I am the co-author of the book, Great Gray Owls of California Oregon and Washington. It is often supposed that these owls are largely boreal as they were first discovered not in Europe but in northern Canada.  Pacific Coast discoveries came more than a century later.  The first nest in California was found in 1914, in Oregon in the 1950s and not until 1991 was one confirmed in Washington State. We now know that the boreal forest is only one of the species’ many possible habitats in North America.”

Posted by: atowhee | August 28, 2016


Paul Sullivan showed me several of his favorite shorebird spots in south Yamhill this morning.  Only one was thus occupied but there were two Least Sandpipers escorting a long Baird’s around muddy rim of a private irrigation reservoir off Salt Creek Road.  The Baird’s was a county life for me.  I am up to 145 species seen here in Yamhill.  Here are my best shorebird pics from this morning:BAIRD-A (1280x960) BAIRD-B (1280x960) BAIRD-BEST (1280x960) BAIRD-BEST1 (1280x960) BAIRD-BEST2 (1280x960) BAIRD-C (1280x960) BAIRD-CU (1280x960) BAIRD-D (1280x960)Baird’s all above.  Least Sandpipers below LESA CU (1280x960) LESA SIDE (1280x960) LESA TWO (1280x960)Here are one of each, Baird’s being the biggest, of course. SHOFRE-TWO (1280x960) SHORE-TWOA (1280x960)

Salt Creek Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Aug 28, 2016 8:45 AM – 9:30 AM.  14 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  25
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  2
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  3
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  2
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  X
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  3
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii)  1
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)  2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  X
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  X
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  1
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)  1

Posted by: atowhee | August 28, 2016


Here in the northern Willamette Valley the temperatures have been HIGH. The air and ground have become DRY from sun and wind. In some open ground near the Yamhill Sewer Ponds cracks in the soil are three inches across and deeper than my hand.  That shows how much volume is taken up each winter’s rainy season by absorbed water. DUST DVL (1280x960)Here we see a dust devil whirling across a newly plowed field, sending precious topsoil into the air to be redistributed at the whim of the parching wind. DUST DVL2 (1280x960)Note the stolid oak that seen all this for decades of summers, yet persists and thrives. DUST DVL3 (1280x960)

Deciduous leaves are beginning to turn yellow, rust and brown.  Many are falling. Every breeze brings down a dried leaf or two.  They fall silently to the earth where many already lie shoulder to shoulder, corpses from the spring that has was.

This is the apex season for wild fruit and seeds.  Goldfinches are feeding now on the seeds of the rampant Queen Anne’s Lace.  Those once mellow, flat heads of florets are now giving way to seed, little velcro footballs which have a magnetic attraction to socks and shoe laces.  The blackberries in dry or sunny spots have already become raisins, moisture burned away.  Those berry vines that have more shade or roots into moist soil are now at their finest–ripe sweet berries that are the most intense of the season.  They are high in sugar with a concentrated blackberry flavor.  Nora the Dog and I each had several.  It is the only fruit that pleases her dogged palate.

The snow berries are all ripe now. As are holly, Oregon grape, mistletoe, poison oak.  The rose hips are still green and hard as a golf ball.  They require winter’s multiple freezing and thawing to reach the proper softness for the Robin’s taste. Dogwoods and hawthorns are in various stages–some of their fruits are still hard and green.  Yet I saw some sun-burdened hawthorns, the haws already ripened to a deep purple.  The green ones are wax-coated and hard as pellets.  The purpled ones can be softly squeezed to assess the juicy pulp that sits inside the skin.  It was in a hawthorn with ripened fruit where I saw the lone Robin of the morning.haws-1 (1280x960)Ripening above, fully ripe below: HAWS-RIPE (1280x960)Ash freighted with seeds.ash-1 (1280x960) ash-2 (1280x960)A lone Least Sandpiper braving the unrelenting sun to hunt along a sewer pond. lesa-ymh (1280x960)When I aw the two Kestrels, one was carrying a small mammal in its talons.  Following it was second Kestrel, calling.  I took this to be ab adult female and a juvenile begging for food, as the trailing falcon did not seem to attacking or aggressive.bumble-1 (1280x960)The intoxication of sticking your proboscis into a luscious cushion rich in pollen.  Bee heavenly. bumble-2 (1280x960)

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Aug 27, 2016 10:45 AM – 11:30 AM.  13 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  2     in the creek
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  8
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  5     in the pasture
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)  2
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  2
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  1

Posted by: atowhee | August 24, 2016


Maine now has America’s newest national park: Katahdin Woods and Waters.  It is officially a new national monument. That takes no Congressional action, unlike full park status.  The park was designated today by President Obama, and the shade of Teddy Roosevelt was far back in the mists of time, grinning and shaking a big stick.  This area is in the far north woods of New England, up against the Canadian border.

Posted by: atowhee | August 23, 2016


Here’s a note from Jim Hardman on his excursion recently to the Ashland area, in search of the Great Gray Owl: “Harry, Drove down to Howard prairie lake sunday afternoon and camped for the night. Went out monday morning and Found this guy at Two Pines meadow – He was back in the woods and up in a tree about 120 ft.  Too far up to get a detailed photo but I’m happy for the experience and and a chance to see this magnificent creature.  Heard him calling and then it took about a half hour to locate him and a while longer to find a hole through the limbs and foliage for a view.”

Here’s Jim’s picture:HARD-GGO

If you’re interested in knowing more about this owl in Oregon and neighboring states, here’s a link to information on my book about our Pacific Slope Great Gray Owls.

It is likely there are more Great Gray Owls in Jackson County, Oregon, than in all of California where they are on the state’s endangered species list.

Posted by: atowhee | August 23, 2016


The current (September, 2016) issue of “National Geographic” clearly and trenchantly describes what happened during the heating of the Pacific Ocean along the North American coast during 2013-2015.  The magazine this month includes a brilliant full-color illustration of the effects such heating, how it affects the nutritional value of the ocean, how up-welling changes and some of the many species that pay the price.  Buy it if you can, read it online.  This is our future along the Pacific Coast.

Click here to see the “National Geographic” article on El Nino and what happens when the Pacific Ocean heats up as it did in 2013-2015.

Posted by: atowhee | August 23, 2016


An invasive earthworm species originally from Asia has now been found in two locations in Oregon.  That’s bad news from our forests as this worm stays near the surface and if the population is large enough they consume all the litter beneath the trees in a forest, opening the soil to erosion and desiccation.  Click here for more info.

The worms are often flipping about on the surface, not like other invasives or our native worms. Often called Asian jumping worm, they are scientifically named “Amynthas agresitis.” They’ve been found in Clackamas and Josephine Counties.

Posted by: atowhee | August 23, 2016


These are golden days here in lower Willamette Valley.  Not just the bright solar orb on a flat blue scrim, though that can be seen as burnished gold.  There are flecks of gold circulating, little clusters of American Goldfinches starting to gather before fall migration.  They are in my garden and then down at Baskett Slough there were a couple pretending to be shorebirds, imitating Least Sandpipers.AMGO BEACH (1280x960) AMGO BEACH2 (1280x960) AMGO TRAY BEST (1280x960) AMGO TRAY CRWD (1280x960) AMGO TRAY CRWD2 (1280x960) AMGO TRAY1 (1280x960) AMGO TRAY2 (1280x960) AMGO TRAY3 (1280x960) AMGO WITH SEEDS (1280x960)Here is the mythical ghost-finch:

GHOST FINCH (1280x960)2finchs2 (1280x960)House Finch family gathered at the local eatery: 3finchs (1280x960) 3finchs2 (1280x960)Male Kestrel stares me down from his high wire perch. KEST ON BLU (1280x960) KEST ON BLU2 (1280x960)The Least Sandpipers along the shore of the Colville Road Pond: LESA FLK (1280x960) NTRIA WASH (1280x960)Nutria. NTRIA WASH2 (1280x960)White Pelicans. WPEL FLK (1280x960)

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Aug 22, 2016 3:30 PM – 4:45 PM.  22 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  1000
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)  10
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  2
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  30
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)  43
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  6
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  8
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  20
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1
American Coot (Fulica americana)  2
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)  27
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  4
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  100
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  300
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)  25
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  30
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  8

Posted by: atowhee | August 21, 2016


My wife and I made a quick mid-day circuit of Baskett Slough NWR.  Bright sun, no wind, swallows on the wing and on the wires as they begin to collect and move southward.  Today it was Violet-Green and Barn.ONA WIRE (1280x960) ona wire2

But highlight was a swirl of White Pelicans, dropping down from overhead and floating in circles, ever lower until they landed with a few of their kind already loafing on a mudflat.  They were in Parvipes Marsh east of Smithfield Road.  Dozens of Great Egrets were lurking along the shore there as well.PELS LANDING (1280x960) PELS ON LAND (1280x960)

The shorebirds we saw were all the pond at the south end of Taverner’s Marsh just north of Colville Road.  In this photo, left to right: yellowlegs, dowitcher, Least Sandpiper in the grass:SHOREBIRDS CLEAR (1280x960) SHOREBRDS3 (1280x960)The Dunlin were too far away for photos.

Gold medal for all around performance must go to the many Great Egrets.  At Taverner’s Marsh one flew the length of the pond to drive off a second egret.EGRET FLITES (1280x960) EGRET FLITES2 (1280x960) EGRET FLITES3 (1280x960) EGRET FLITES4 (1280x960)The successful attacker, then turned back and landed along the edge of the pond to hunt undisturbed. EGRET FLITES5 (1280x960)Then we watched another egret stalk the marsh right along Colville Road and swallow several small bits of prey stabbed and jerked from the water.EGRET POISD (1280x960) EGRET STAB (1280x960) EGRET STAB2 (1280x960) EGRET STAB4 (1280x960) EGRET STAND (1280x960) EGRET STAND2 (1280x960)The swallow: EGRET SWALO (1280x960) EGRET SWALO2 (1280x960)

Baskett Slough NWR, Polk, Oregon, US
Aug 21, 2016 1:00 PM – 1:45 PM.   20 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  15
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  X
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)  30
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  5
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  50
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  4
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
American Coot (Fulica americana)  1
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)  2
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)  15
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)  1
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  6
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  30
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  75
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  6
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  40
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  8

Posted by: atowhee | August 19, 2016


As the temp rises toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, most waterproof animals dreamed of a cooling swim.  My dog couldn’t wait to get into the shrunken North Yamhill River.  And in that same river was a bathing male Wilson’s Warbler.WIWA BATH (1280x960) WIWA BATH2 (1280x960) WIWA BATH3 (1280x960) The layers of limbs made it impossible to get a clear shot across the stream bed.  Not affected by the sun was this treetopping Wood-Pewee.WPW IN SUN (1280x960)Another bird high in the sky: Acorn Woodpecker.ACWO LOOK2 ACWO LOOKS (1280x960)

Wennerberg Park, Carlton, OR, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Aug 19, 2016 10:00 AM – 10:40 AM.  11 species [no Robins, unusual for this site]

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)  2
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  3
California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  25
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  1
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  X
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  1
Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  1, House Finch

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